I had a previous topic planned, but after a few days in Las Vegas, I changed my mind. This city is one of a few that the American public can identify both its nickname and slogan without being prompted. In case you don’t know, Las Vegas is called Sin City with the slogan “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” which is now more commonly stated as “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas.”
What makes this ironic is that I was inspired to write this article by what the pilot said as we landed and I spent an evening in my hotel putting my conflicted thoughts and feelings on this page.
I know many people that have a trip to Las Vegas on their list of places they want to visit. I crossed that off my list about a dozen years ago and have been here many times since. People have a hard time believing me when I say I really don’t enjoy coming to Las Vegas. To me, it is a depressing experience.
What causes me so much internal conflict about the city is that it is a mecca of entertainment – some of it unique, diverse, popular, and even clean. However, what it is known for is the entertainment that highlights the excesses of material life: money, drinking, and sex. The city and state spend a lot of money promoting the eye-catching glamour of these activities.
Obviously, based upon its nickname and slogan, the city has successfully marketed this image. In fact, its slogan practically excuses and encourages the gluttony with the message that no one back home will know what happened during your visit.
I wonder how many lives, relationships, weddings, and souls have been ruined as a result of actions and activity that have taken place in this community.
At the same time I condemn the vices, I also hesitate to blame the city or its past and current leaders. Nor do I wish to actively seek to ban or forbid much of the entertainment options that are available.
Part of my rationale is due to my education and profession. My education and experience is in the field of message design and marketing. Las Vegas has followed the principles of marketing perfectly and effectively branded their product (the city) which has resulted in thousands of jobs, millions of visitors, and a situation where visitors pay for all of the communities’ amenities through various commerce, taxes, and gambling losses.
In addition, nobody is forcing people to gamble, drink, lust, or flock to Las Vegas (OK, there is an exception to this which I will explain later).
As much as I respect and value the freedom of religion that served as a foundation of the United States’ creation, I also highly value all of the freedoms and liberties that we enjoy as citizens of this country. This is also a principal of our Catholic Faith per the Catecism of the Catholic Curch:
Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one’s own responsibility. By free will one shapes one’s own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude. (1731)
As long as freedom has not bound itself definitively to its ultimate good which is God, there is the possibility of choosing between good and evil, and thus of growing in perfection or of failing and sinning. This freedom characterizes properly human acts. It is the basis of praise or blame, merit or reproach. (1732)
As I mentioned, I do not look forward to my trips to Vegas. They are, however, a necessity for business as it is a location of many important trade shows. On many occasions, I am the sole representative of my employer attending these events. It would not make a difference, though, if I were with a small or large group. I am not a very “fun date.”
Sure, I go out and get a meal and may even have a drink. However, I also do this at home occasionally too (gasp!). The only difference when I am in Vegas is that I usually wager a few dollars on a couple of sports bets. While I do not ask you to accept these transgressions or my rationalization that I limit my losses to about $50, I then head back to my room to work and spend a boring evening getting ready for my next day…or completing an article right before deadline.
Most of my willpower comes from my dedication to my God and doing the best that I can. The reality, though, is that my overriding fear of disappointing and/or screwing up the love and responsibility to my family is a huge factor.
This brings me back to what the pilot said when we landed in Vegas. He jokingly said, “Welcome to Las Vegas, where what happens in Vegas…ends up on YouTube!”
For those without a strong faith, but with a healthy fear of having their discretions revealed, technology and the ever-present camera and recording devices may provide enough deterrent to not act to reckless.
The primary point is that instead of focusing on “What Happens Here, Stays Here,” we all need to follow the philosophy “What We Have in Us, Travels with Us.”
© 2013 Greg Yoko. All rights reserved.
Photography: See our Photographers page.